These Italian-inspired Zucchini Meatballs come together with a few simple ingredients and are perfect to make for a quick weeknight meal.
If you’re looking for new ways to get picky eaters to eat their veggies, this recipe is for you!
Get ready to enjoy flavor-packed juicy veggie meatballs made with zucchini, onion, cheese, breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Vegetarian Meatball Recipe
Traditional meatballs are undoubtedly delicious, however, if you live a plant based lifestyle or are looking for an easy way to sneak more vegetables into your diet, well then, you are going to love this one.
These vegetable meatballs are easy to make if you are looking for a quick weeknight meal and are perfect to make in bulk for meal prep or freezing to eat when needed.
Bonus: If you enjoy zucchini and have a backyard garden, I would highly recommend planting zucchini this year! You will have a great personal supply and there are so many ways to enjoy zucchini like Air Fryer Zucchini Chips and Zucchini Lasagna Rolls!
Ingredients For Zucchini Meatballs
Vegetables: to make these vegetarian meatballs you will need lots of veggies like grated zucchini, white onion, and garlic cloves.
Binders: 1 cup panko breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, and egg.
Sauce: toss your meatless meatballs in a marinara sauce before you serve them up for that delicious traditional meatball taste.
*For a detailed list of ingredients and measurements, please reference the recipe card down below.
How to make Zucchini Meatballs
1. Grate zucchini and onion. Cut off the bottoms of each zucchini and use a cheese grater or box grater to shred into a large bowl. Add the salt, toss, and let rest in a fine mesh strainer in the sink for 15-20 minutes to pull out excess moisture.
2. Drain zucchini and onion. After resting in the sink, use your fingertips to gently push down on the grated zucchini and release any remaining liquid. You can also wrap the mixture in a cheese cloth and squeeze out the excess liquid.
3. Prepare the zucchini meatball mixture. While zucchini is resting, grate the onion into a large mixing bowl. Add the grated parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, basil, egg, and drained zucchini. Using a fork, mix together until fully combined.
4. Make the meatball mixture. Transfer zucchini and onion to a large mixing bowl. Add the grated parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, onion powder, crushed red pepper flakes, basil, and egg. Using a fork, mix together until fully combined.
5. Form the meatballs. Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, form the mixture into about 20 meatballs.
6. Cook the meatballs. Heat a 12 inch cast iron skillet on medium heat with 2 tbsps of olive oil. Once hot, arrange the meatballs in a single layer, turning to cook all sides, until browned. You might find it easier to do this step in two batches.
7. Bake the meatballs. Once all meatballs are cooked, remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool slightly. Carefully add the marinara sauce to the pan and top with torn mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375° F for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese has melted and marinara sauce is bubbly.
8. Serve. Top with more fresh basil and serve with your favorite toasted bread for dipping. If you think these are the best meatballs, be sure to leave a comment below!
How to serve plant based meatballs
Add your plant based meatballs to any plate by preparing some pasta to serve beneath them. Marinara sauce on pasta with zucchini meatballs is so delicious.
You can also change it up by skipping the marinara sauce and plating them over pasta with butter or pesto sauce. If you want even more veggies in the dish, spiralize zucchini noodles, carrot noodles, or beet noodles and make a vegetable based pasta to pair with your vegetable meatballs!
Looking for more ways to get vegetables into a delicious dinner? Check out some other tasty recipes like:
- Avocado Risotto
- Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
- Air Fryer Baked Sweet Potato
- Butternut Squash Cranberry Quinoa Salad
- Air Fryer Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Broccoli
- Shawarma Tofu Salad
- Avocado Corn Salad
How to shred zucchini for meatballs
There are a few ways to prepare and grate zucchini to make meatballs.
I love using a food processor because it’s easy to use and gets the job done quick.
The downside to using a food processer – you have another kitchen tool to clean and depending on the make/model, your food processor might not be easy to clean.
However, if you are looking to save some time, pull it out, toss your zucchini in and let the machine do the work for you!
Word of caution, make sure you don’t over process the zucchini, you don’t want it to become a wet or super liquidy mess.
If you are looking for an easy-to-use, easy-to-clean kitchen tool, I recommend grabbing a grater. When shredding zucchini with a grater, it is basically the same as shredding or grating a block of cheese. I use this for my potato latkes too!
Before beginning, cut the ends off the bottom of the zucchini. I like to go in a downward motion to get nice even strands.
Word of caution, be careful when you get to the end of the zucchini, you don’t what to nick a finger. If you want to be extra cautious, try a pair of cut resistant gloves.
How do you keep vegetable meatballs from falling apart?
Homemade meatballs can be tricky. Although they are simple, there is a bit of a science to them so they don’t crumble apart.
To ensure you are making the perfect meatballs:
- Remember to drain the zucchini mixture before making the meatballs. Too much moisture will prevent them from cooking properly.
- Use an egg. This is your binder that helps hold everything together, you don’t want to skip this ingredient!
- Add breadcrumbs, they help form a solid meatball.
- Pack a tight meatball when you are rolling them and shaping the ball.
- Give your meatballs space when they are cooking; don’t over crowed them.
What to use in meatballs instead of breadcrumbs?
Don’t want to use breadcrumbs in your meatballs? That’s okay! Here are some of the top recommend substitutes:
- Pork rinds
- Crushed chips
- Pretzels or crackers
You can even try using leftover quinoa!
How to Freeze Meatballs
Freezing meatballs is simple and can be done two ways; with and without marinara sauce.
Freezing meatballs without sauce:
When you freeze meatballs without sauce, I recommend placing them in an airtight container and separating your layers with parchment paper to prevent them from getting stuck together.
You can also freeze your meatballs by putting them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet all spaced out, freezing them, and then transferring them to a container to ensure they don’t stick together at all.
Freezing meatballs with sauce:
If you are freezing meatballs with sauce, allow everything to cool completely at room temperature and then transfer them into an airtight container. I recommend these glass storage containers, they are my favorite and do a great job preventing freezer burn.
Other meal prep friendly recipes
Everyone loves a great meal prep recipe and this one certainly fits the bill, plus it’s easy and super tasty.
Not only are they meal prep friendly, but they are also freezer friendly, budget-friendly, waistline-friendly, and kid-friendly!
If you are looking for other recipes that fall in line, check out some of my favorites like:
- Blackened Shrimp Taco Bowls
- Basil Pesto Chicken
- Veggie Egg Frittata Muffins
- Buffalo Tofu Bowls
- Wonton Egg Bites
- Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers
Try these other meatball recipes next:
Helpful Items For This Recipe
- Food Processor: this will help grate your zucchini super quick and effortlessly.
- Grater: although it takes a little more effort, I prefer grating zucchini this way because there is less of a mess to clean up.
- Cast Iron Skillet: you will need a cast iron skillet to finish the meatballs in the oven.
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- 4 large unpeeled zucchini
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 white onion, peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- marinara sauce
- mozzarella cheese, torn
- Cut off the bottoms of each zucchini and the onion, and use a cheese grater or box grater to shred into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, toss, and let rest in a fine mesh strainer in the sink for 15-20 minutes to pull out excess moisture.
- After resting in the sink, use your fingertips to gently push down on the grated zucchini and release any remaining liquid.
- While the zucchini mixture is resting, add the black pepper, garlic, grated parmesan cheese, panko breadcrumbs, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, basil, and egg to a large mixing bowl. Add the drained zucchini mixture and, using a fork, mix together until fully combined.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, form the mixture into about 20 meatballs.
- Heat a 12 inch cast iron skillet on medium heat with 2 tbsps of olive oil. Once hot, arrange the meatballs in a single layer, turning to cook all sides, until browned. You might find it easier to do this step in two batches.
- Once all meatballs are cooked, remove the pan from heat and allow to cool slightly. Carefully add the marinara sauce to the pan and top with torn mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375° F for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese has melted and marinara sauce is bubbly.
- Top with more fresh basil and serve with your favorite toasted bread for dipping.